Biodiversity in soil ecosystems: the role of energy flow and community stability

P.C. de Ruiter, A.M. Neutel, J.C. Moore

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    In a series of community food webs from native and agricultural soils, we modeled energetics and stability, and evaluated the role of the various groups of organisms and their interactions in energy flow and community stability. Species were aggregated into functional groups based on their trophic position in the food webs. Energy flow rates among the groups were calculated by a model using observations on population sizes, death rates, specific feeding preferences and energy conversion efficiencies. From the energetic organization of the communities we derived the strengths of the mutual effects among the populations. These interaction strengths were found to be patterned in a way that is important to community stability. The patterning consisted of the simultaneous occurrence of strong top down effects at lower trophic levels and strong bottom up effects at higher trophic levels. These patterns resulted directly from the empirical data we used to parameterize the model, as we found no stabilizing patterns with random but plausible parameter values. Also, the impact of each individual interaction on community stability was established. This analysis showed that some interactions had a relatively strong impact on stability, whereas other interactions had only a small impact. These impacts on stability were neither correlated with energy flow nor with interaction strength. Comparison of the seven food webs showed that these impacts were sometimes connected to particular groups of organisms involved in the interaction, but sometimes they were not, which might be due to different trophic positions in the food webs. We argue that future research should be directed to answer the question which energetic properties of the organisms form the basis of the patterning of the interaction strengths, as this would improve our understanding of the interrelationships between energetics, community stability, and hence the maintenance of biological diversity.
    Original languageUndefined/Unknown
    Pages (from-to)217-228
    JournalApplied Soil Ecology
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 1998


    • Biodiversity
    • Community stability
    • Energetics
    • Functional groups
    • Interaction strengths
    • Keystone interactions
    • Soil ecosystems

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